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Somerset solar co-operative celebrates tenth birthday

Wedmore Community Power Co-operative, which was set up in 2013 by people living on the Isle of Wedmore in Somerset, is celebrating ten years of operation, during which time it has raised £100,000 for local projects.

WCPC sold shares to raise the £1,225,000 required for the installation and today the group has around 230 members, including many Wedmore residents.

Wedmore CPC board member Steve Mewes

The solar farm comprises almost 4,000 solar panels fixed to aluminium frames. The electricity generated is fed into a series of inverters and, via a small substation, into the existing power transmission line that runs alongside the site.

Since it became operational it has produced more than 10,000 MWh which is sold to renewable electricity company Good Energy to supply its customers with clean, green power. Surplus from the operation is returned to the community in the form of grants, raising £100,000 for local good causes and sustainability projects.

The solar panels are split across two paddocks to the north of the village and screened by hedges. They are mounted at a height that allows sheep to graze underneath, maintaining the value of the land for pasture as well as providing the animals with welcome shelter from the sun and the rain.

Co-operative chairman Chris Jonas said: ‘We would like to thank everyone who has supported us over the last ten years, not only the investors but also the wider community who helped to make our dream a reality.

‘Working together, we are proud to be playing our part in the transition to a more sustainable future and raising awareness of the importance of renewable energy.

‘One of our key aims was to reinvest the surplus back into Wedmore and we’ve been delighted by the results.

‘Over the last ten years we’ve made around 50 grants to a wide variety of charities and organisations, ranging from £250 to £5,000. Beneficiaries include Wedmore Scouts, Wedmore Cricket Club, Wedmore Bowls Club, Wedmore Cricket Club, Wedmore in Bloom and two of our local schools, together with grants for energy-saving measures such as solar panels for three of our local village halls.

‘Everyone has benefitted from the solar farm – the people and the planet.’

Good Energy sales director Tom Parsons congratulated the group on their anniversary: ‘Wedmore CPC have proved that solar farms can play a major role in improving our energy security, without damaging the countryside or reducing farmland, and they’re raising significant sums for their local community too.

‘They deserve praise for their achievements, and we look forward to working with them for many more years to come.’

Photo: Stephen Lewis

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